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mmo Noteworthy

October 2005

changing families:

New Census study maps U.S. trends in marriage, fertility and maternal poverty

work-life research:

Family-friendly employers --
they're really not that into you (or your family)

A new report from the Families and Work Institute finds that supporting employees and their families is not the main reason why employers implement family-friendly policies.

parenting and health:

New SIDS prevention guidelines call for "separate but proximate" sleep arrangements for infants

women and leadership:

Female commentators scarce on Sunday A.M. pundit fests

Other news and commentary on women and politics

jobs, wages and the economy:

Despite economic growth, percentage of U.S. workers with good jobs is unchanged since 1970s

More news and commentary about women, jobs and economic trends

katrina's aftermath:

Assessing the needs of Gulf Coast women

elsewhere on the web:

Notable news and commentary on "opting out," reproductive rights and other timely issues

past editions of mmo noteworthy ...
changing families:

New Census study maps U.S. trends in marriage, fertility and maternal poverty

A state-by-state assessment of marriage and fertility trends could serve as a baseline for tracking the socioeconomic impact of changing family structures in the United States, the authors conclude. While the results are preliminary, the study -- which was based on data collected from the American Community Survey from 2000 to 2003 -- indicates that some demographic indicators, such as median age at first marriage, births to teen and unmarried mothers, maternal workforce participation in the 12 months following birth, and maternal poverty are distributed in regional clusters. An October 13 article in the New York Times went so far as to suggest that the main findings of the new report conform roughly to the red state-blue state political divisions ("Data on Marriage and Births Reflect the Political Divide," by Tamar Lewis). The study also analyzed national data on births to non-citizen and non-English speaking mothers.

Highlights from the study include:

  • Nationally, unmarried partner couples make up 5 percent of all households; the percentage of unmarried partner couples was significantly higher than the national average in the West and parts of the Northeast, and significantly lower in the South.
  • The median age at first marriage for women was significantly higher than the national average (25.1 years) in the Northeast and California, and significantly lower in the Midwest, South and Northwest. The District of Columbia had the highest median age at first marriage for women (29.9), followed by Maryland (27.4) and New York (27).
  • The percentage of births to unmarried women (national average: 29 percent) was significantly higher than average in some parts of the South and in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, and lower than average in most of the West, Midwest and Northeast.
  • Percentages of births to teen mothers (national average: 8 percent) were higher than average in Southern states; in most states, the percentage of births to teen mothers was not significantly above or below the national average.

The reports concludes that among significant regional patterns, states with relatively high proportions of women with infants below the poverty level were related to other socioeconomic factors, such as: low levels of maternal labor force participation, high proportion of births among teenagers, and high proportion of births among unmarried mothers. The analysis found no relationship between higher proportions of women with infants in poverty and the percentage of mothers who speak little or no English and who were non-citizens.

Indicators of Marriage and Fertility in the United States
from the American Community Survey: 2000 to 2003

Tallese Johnson and Jane Dye, U.S. Census Bureau, 13 Oct 05
(press release)

Tables and slide show

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work-life research:

Family-friendly employers --
they're really not that into you (or your family)

A new report from the Families and Work Institute finds that supporting employees and their families is not the main reason why employers implement family-friendly policies.

On October 13, the Families and Work Institute released the findings of its latest survey of 1,092 U.S. employers with 50 or more employees. According to the Institute, the 2005 National Study of Employers is "the most comprehensive and far-reaching study of the practices, policies, programs and benefits provided by U.S. employers to address the needs of the changing workforce." While anecdotal reports suggest employers are trimming family-friendly policies and benefits in response to the shifting employment market, the 2005 NSE finds that most employers offering work life assistance programs have made few cutbacks. However, a key finding of the report was that employers' rationale for adopting family-friendly practices had less to do with accommodating workers' family obligations and more to do with business concerns. Only 19 percent of employers who have implemented eight or more family-friendly workplace policies cited purely altruistic reasons, such as "we are a caring organization" or "it's the right thing to do." 47 percent of family-friendly employers were motivated by a desire to recruit and retain employees; another 25 percent hoped work life policies would enhance worker "productivity and commitment." "Cost" was the reason most often given by employers as an obstacle to implementing more and better work life policies (46 percent), followed by "impracticalities" related to "work schedule flexibility, supervision, and fairness" (41 percent).

As for working time flexibility, 68 percent of employers allowed some employees to periodically change their starting an quitting times, but only 33 percent allowed most or all of their employees to do so, and only 13 percent of employers allowed most or all employees to change starting and quitting times on a daily basis. Only 3 percent of employers allow most or all of their workers to work from home on a regular basis, although 31 percent allow some to do so. Over half (53 percent) of the employers surveyed report they allow some employees to move from full-time to part-time work and back again in the same position and level, but only one in five allowed most or all employees to do so. Overall, the study found that employers with fewer than 100 employees were more likely to embrace a flexible workplace culture compared to large employers (1,000 or more employees).

When the authors of the report compared their findings to an earlier study, they found that among companies providing temporary disability pay for new mother, fewer offered full pay in 2005 (18 percent) than did in 1998 (27 percent). Fathers were significantly less likely to receive paid time off following the birth of their child (12 percent). 27 percent of employers also reported shifting more of the costs of health care to their employees over the last two years.

The 2005 NSE suggests that family-friendly workplace policies are here to stay, although they may not benefit all employees in the same company to the same extent -- and in general, smaller companies are adapting more quickly to workers' need for flexibility.

Families and Work Institute

2005 National Study of Employers
James T. Bond, Ellen Gallinsky, Stacy S. Kim and Erin Brownfield
Families and Work Institute, October 2005

Highlights of Findings (10 pages, in .pdf)

Full Report (30 pages, in .pdf)

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parenting and health:

New SIDS prevention guidelines call for "separate but proximate" sleep arrangements for infants

The American Association of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome released an updated policy statement earlier this month which stresses the risks associated with infant-parent co-sleeping and recommends nighttime pacifier use. While there was a steady annual decline in the number of U.S. SIDS deaths after the National Institute of Child Health launched the "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994, the Task Force notes that since 2002, the incidence of SIDS has plateaued at .56 deaths per 1,000 live births. Although the available research on the relationship between SIDS and co-sleeping or pacifier use is by no means conclusive, the new statement emphasizes that infants younger than 12 months should sleep in mom's bedroom, but not in her bed. The new guidelines also nix side-sleeping as a safer alternative to the belly-down position, and concludes that commercial sleep apnea monitors are virtually useless in preventing SIDS deaths and that sleep monitors should only be used for infants who have experienced an "apparent life-threatening event" rather than for all high-risk or healthy babies. The report also finds that "factors associated with breastfeeding, rather than breastfeeding itself" are protective against SIDS.

The upshot of all this seems to be that young babies may be less likely to die of SIDS if they are prevented from sleeping too soundly. An October 18 trend piece in the New York Times suggests some chronically sleep-deprived parents may be rebelling against the AAP's stringent prevention guidelines and putting their infants to sleep tummy down.

The core recommendations from the AAP SIDS Task Force remain unchanged: no pillows, plush toys or soft bedding in or around an infant's sleeping area, put babies to sleep on their back, avoid overheating sleeping infants, don't smoke while pregnant and avoid exposing infants to second-hand smoke. The AAP's recommendations might also have urged the U.S. to implement a federally-funded program to ensure all pregnant women receive quality prenatal care (since there is a proven link between poor or no prenatal care, low birth weight and increased risk for SIDS) -- but then, that would suggest that society bears some responsibility for optimizing maternal and infant health, and we wouldn't want to set that precedent, would we?

Changing Concepts of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:
Implications for Infant Sleeping Environment and Sleep Position

Task Force on Infant Sleep Position and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
American Academy of Pediatrics, 10 Oct 05

Pacifiers May Ease SIDS Risk
Associated Press, CBS News, 11 Oct 05
Babies should be offered pacifiers at bedtime, and they should sleep in their parents' room -- but not in their beds -- in order to lessen the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, the nation's largest group of pediatricians says.

A Quiet Revolt Against the Rules on SIDS
Brian Braiker, New York Times, 18 Oct 05

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women and leadership:

Female commentators scarce on Sunday A.M. pundit fests

The White House Project, a non-profit organization aiming " to advance women’s leadership in all sectors, up to and including the U.S. presidency," has released an analysis of guest appearances by women on Sunday morning political talk shows. The study finds that although some networks have shown dramatic increases in the number of women invited to share their informed points of view with the regular roundup of male pundits, overall only 14 percent of Sunday morning talk show guest were women -- up just 3 percent from 2001, when the White House Project conducted a similar review. The Project also found that over half of the shows the monitored had no female guest at all, and female guests were significantly less likely to have repeat appearances (37 female talking heads were invited back for another round, compared to 186 male guests). The report breaks down findings by network, the topics on which women were asked to comment, and the occupational background women talk show guests.

The White House Project

Who's Talking Now:
A Followup Analysis of Guest Appearances by Women on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows

The White House Project, October 2005
Full Report (includes Executive Summary, 56 pages in .pdf)

Related article:

If these broads could talk
Rebecca Traister, Salon, 13 Oct 05
"Women now make up 14 percent of the combined total of guest appearances on the five Sunday talk shows. Way to go, three percentage points! Just one short of the percentage of women in Congress! For those of you who are not great with percentages, here's what 14 percent means: From Nov. 7, 2004, to July 10, 2005, there were 787 guest appearances on the Sunday morning shows. Of those, 107 were made by chicks."

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Other news and commentary on women and politics:

Thelma for president!
Rebecca Traister, Salon, 29 Sept 05
At a party to celebrate the debut of "Commander in Chief" feminists hissed, cheered and even got a little weepy.

If Women Ruled the World, Nothing Would Be Different
Lisa Jervis, Lip Magazine, 15 Sept 05
The biggest problem with American feminism today is its obsession with women.

The Elusive Women's Vote
Ruth Rosen, AlterNet, 14 Oct 05
A new book that tracks women's voting trends doesn't tell us enough about how women will vote in the next elections. (A short review of pollsters Celinda Lake and Kellyanne Conway's "What Women Really Want.")

Can a Man Become President?
Sherman Yellen, AlterNet, 11 Oct 05
Real men are not towel snapping bullies like President Bush, whose target is the poor and those least able to defend themselves.

A Woman, At Least
Martha Burk, TomPaine.com, 4 Oct 05
"If the court looked approximately like America, it would have five women and four men, one of the individuals would be Hispanic, and one would be black. To correct the imbalance in representation, this president and future ones should establish a 'female first' philosophy as a given. Not only this seat, but the next three, should be filled with females."

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jobs, wages and the economy:
Despite U.S. economic growth, percentage of workers with good jobs is unchanged since 1970s

The Center for Economic Policy Research has published an analysis finding that substantial growth of the nation's economy since 1979 has not increased the proportion of "good" jobs available in the U.S. The report defines good jobs as those that offer at least $16.00 and hour (or $32,000 annually), employer paid health insurance, and a pension. Although the GDP per capita has grown 60 percent since the late 1970s, it has not produced a greater share of good jobs; in both 1979 and 2004, about one in four workers had a "good" job, even though the age and education level of the workforce has increased over that period of time. Based on this growth of "human capital," the reports suggests that in the last 25 years, the ability of the U.S. economy to produce good jobs has actually fallen by 25 to 30 percent. The report also finds that in 2004, about 27 percent of working Americans were in "bad" jobs (less than $16/hour, no health insurance, no pension), nearly the same number that had bad jobs in 1979 (28 percent).

Although the CEPR analysis doesn't include a breakdown of workers in good and bad jobs by sex or address the 48 percent of American workers in neither "good" nor "bad" jobs, it does suggest that creating more good jobs with good benefits depends on more than overall economic growth.

Center for Economic Policy Research

How Good is the Economy at Creating Good Jobs?
John Schmitt, Center for Economic Policy Research, October 2005
(17 pages, in .pdf)

Related summary from the Economic Policy Institute:

Economy up, people down
Declining earnings undercut income growth

Income Picture, 31 Aug 05
Although the economy expanded solidly in 2004, the inflation-adjusted income of the median household was unchanged and remains $1,700, or 3.8%, below its most recent peak in 1999.

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More news and commentary about women, jobs and economic trends

The Working Mommy Trap
E.J. Graff, TomePaine.com, 5 Oct 05
"The message is quite explicit: Women don’t make as much as men because they don’t want to—so stop whining already. But this focus on women’s “choices” masks a far more profound story. The real trend isn’t choice; it’s the lack thereof. Most women have to work, because they and their families need the paycheck. But they’re also treated unfairly on the job."

Also on TomPaine.com:
Letters in response to E.J. Graff's "The Working Mommy Trap"
"I have a hard time having sympathy for women who choose to have families and are passed over for promotions 'just because' they are mothers and might not commit enough time to their jobs in lieu of their families. In this day of freely available birth control methods, having or adopting children is a lifestyle choice that we are all free to make. I do not think it is all that unfair of employers and fellow employees to be upset when a working parent is constantly leaving early or calling off because of their children. If your career is that important to you, then don't have children, or make your partner stay home and take care of them."

Working Hard or Hardly Working
Rachel Neumann, AlterNet, 19 Oct 05
In this exclusive interview, Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the thin line between the middle class and the working poor and why she wants to slap the next person who insists on the power of positive thinking.

Are Coaches the Answer to White-Collar Unemployment?
Barbara Ehrenreich, AlterNet, 27 Sept 05
In an excerpt from her new book 'Bait and Switch,' the author of 'Nickel and Dimed' explores the dubious industry of career coaches, intended to help frustrated job-seekers find their true callings.

New programs aim to help mothers
who are looking to reenter workplace

Maggie Jackson, Boston Globe, 9 Oct 05
"Job hunting is tough when you're a mother. Motherhood is a stigma in the labor market and taking time off for parenting is often a door-closer. But take heart. A raft of opportunities have been created in the last year for returning moms."

The Real Reasons You're Working So Hard...
and what you can do about it

Business Week Online, October 2005
"With so many managers and professionals stuck at work, there is a growing consensus among management gurus that the stuck-at-work epidemic is symptomatic of a serious disorder in the organization of corporations."

A Poverty Of Understanding
Nancy Cauthen, TomPaine.com, 30 Sept 05
"Research indicates that it takes an income of anywhere between one and a half to three times the current poverty level to meet basic family needs. Using twice the poverty level as a proxy, 38 percent of the nation’s children -- some 29 million -- are living in families with inadequate incomes. The bottom line is that by any reasonable standard, we have a big problem."

Growing Gulf Between Rich and Rest of Us
Holly Sklar, Common Dreams, 3 Oct 05
America is becoming a downwardly mobile society instead of an upwardly mobile society.

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katrina's aftermath:

Assessing the needs of Gulf Coast women

The Institute for Women's Policy Research has released the first briefing paper in two-part series on the status of women in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and key assets for their recovery in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The first paper focuses on race, gender and class in relation to women's well-being in the Gulf Coast, and concludes that, "like many women of the south," Gulf Coast women "face multiple disadvantages… they are more likely to be poor and lack health insurance and less likely to earn good wages that women elsewhere in the United States. They are also disproportionately African American and experience discrimination based on both race and sex." The IWPR's policy checklist to "help women in the Gulf Coast region achieve the best possible economic outcomes moving forward" includes jobs with living wages, job training and education and strengthening affirmative action policies in the rebuilding process, making public assistance available to those who need it but may have reached state or federal time limits on TANF benefits, meeting women's basic needs for food and healthcare, and making child available for those seeking to reestablish their lives.

Institute for Women's Policy Research

The Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast:
Multiple Disadvantages and Key Assets for Recovery

Barbara Gault, Heidi Hartmen, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Mish Weschkul, and Erica Williams
Institute for Women's Policy Research, October 2005
(12 pages, in .pdf)

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 elsewhere on the web:

Notable news and commentary on "opting out," reproductive rights and other timely issues

Mothers at Work Are Canaries in the Mine
Charlotte Fishman, Women's eNews , 19 Oct 05
Working mothers may be shortchanged, off-balance and fun-deprived, but Charlotte Fishman says they are also at the forefront of another dynamic social movement. Too bad a recent front-page New York Times article missed that angle.

What Women Want: A Rebuttal to the Times
Linda Basch, Ilene Lang and Deborah Merrill-Sands,
AlterNet, 3 Oct 05
A recent New York Times trend-piece on over-achieving women headed for homemaking sparked furious debate; the authors argue for a new frame.

Now Comes the Bride:
Why marrying young is suddenly mod

Victoria Ilyinsky, The Harvard Crimson Online, 6 Oct 05
"I don’t think I’m the only young adult fueling the backlash against late motherhood. We were, on the whole, brought up by youthful, energetic mothers who are now exploring pilates alongside us, buying mini-iPods before us, and planning to be present for our childrens’ childrens’ bridal parties. I want to give that security and that vitality to my little Christopher, Abigail, and Jack (almost all the girls I know have already named their children, thank you very much)."

A Bite of Post-Feminism
Rena Xu, Harvard Crimson Online, 17 Oct 05
"Recent surveys of women currently attending Ivy League institutions have shown that a remarkable number already expect to replace their careers with part-time jobs, or simply abandon them entirely, once they start having children… What makes this phenomenon intriguing is that its subtly yet substantially regressive nature is masked by a veneer of progressiveness."

Rocking the Cradle of Class
Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today, Sept/Oct 2005
Social class used to be something you're born into. But now that the world is flat and fast and fluid, parents are seeking status in the achievements of their children. The trouble with turning tots into trophies is that the developmental needs of the young are sacrificed to the psychological needs of adults.

The Day Care Scare
Nina Shapiro, Seattle Weekly, Oct 5-1, 2005
Four years ago, research seemed to indicate that day care was turning out a generation of bullies. Now, new data suggest those fears were way overblown, and the national day-care debate is about to be rekindled.

Housing Buys Time for Women Fleeing Violence
Juliette Terzieff, Women's eNews, 16 Oct 05
The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized in time for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. As lawmakers debate which programs to fund advocates say transitional housing is a top priority.

Kids Of Same-Sex Parents Do Fine
CBS News, WebMD, 12 Oct 05
"Researchers looked at information gleaned from 15 studies on more than 500 children, evaluating possible stigma, teasing and social isolation, adjustment and self-esteem, opposite gender role models, sexual orientation, and strengths… 'The vast consensus of all the studies shows that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way.'"

No school nurses left behind
Laurie Udesky, Salon, 29 Sept 05
Once a comforting presence in most public schools, full-time nurses are increasingly scarce. Now teaching assistants, secretaries and other nonmedical personnel are trying to care for sick children -- with often tragic results.

Endless summer
Sarah Karnasiewicz, Salon, 3 Oct 05
Unschooling is a radical branch of home-schooling where kids control what and when they learn -- free of teachers, schedules and tests. Unschoolers say it's intellectually empowering. Critics call it irresponsible.

Get Hitched, Young Woman
Ruth Rosen, TomPaine.com, 26 Sept 05
"The Bush administration only believes in accountability and personal responsibility when it involves women’s sexuality and their reproductive choices."

When Mom and Dad Don't Know Best
Jennifer Baumgardner, AlterNet, 28 Sept 2005
Twenty-three years ago, I helped my teenage sister get an abortion, without telling our parents. Today her story is still proof to me that parental consent laws don't work.

The High Price of Donation
Jennifer Liss, AlterNet, 7 Oct 05
Young college women are increasingly being targeted by egg donation agencies for their good looks and their good grades.

Plan B Activists Prepare for Next Battle
Molly M. Ginty, Women's eNews, 10 Oct 05
During a public comment period that ends Nov. 1, advocates are pushing the acting FDA commissioner to ease over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. The previous FDA chief delayed access in August, then suddenly resigned on Sept. 23.

Endometriosis Researchers Share Data, Unknowns
Molly M. Ginty, Women's eNews, 13 Oct 05
Endometriosis affects 10 percent of U.S. women and can lead to infertility. Last weekend, researchers focused on new treatments for a disease that lacks a definitive cure.

The Changing Face of Sexual Harassment
Justin Clark, AlterNet, 30 Sept 05
As some companies grow more lenient about love and sex in the workplace, American laws and attitudes are struggling to keep up.

Are babies not equally innocent?
Cecelie S. Berry, Salon, 30 Sept 05
Bill Bennett's statement about blacks and crime shows that we have not yet achieved America's greatest value: Equality.

Bill Bennett's Abortion Fantasies
Mark Sorkin, Common Dreams, 4 Oct 05
"Leaving aside the question of whether Bennett considers eugenics or abortion the greater sin, the statement was so outrageous it hardly deserves a second thought beyond immediate censure. But give the man some credit for his timing: At a moment when Americans are already roiling over the Bush Administration's racist response to Hurricane Katrina, Bennett managed to turn up the heat."

GOP Silent on Race Trash Talk
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, AlterNet, 3 Oct 05
"The reaction was swift and angry to former Reagan honcho William Bennett's oddball racist crack that aborting black babies could reduce crime. The problem though was that those who instantly denounced Bennett were all Democrats. Even as calls were made for an apology, or his firing from his syndicated national radio show, neither President Bush or any other top GOP leader said a mumbling word about Bennett."

Monkey Business and Moral Panic
E.J. Graff, AlterNet, 12 Oct 05
American journalists aren't shy about reporting on sex and politics. Unfortunately, they're covering precisely the wrong stories.

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October 2005

previously in mmo noteworthy ...

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